Apple says it's not tracking customers' locations

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Apple said April 27 that it has never tracked iPhone users' locations and dismissed the possibility of doing so in the future.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said that although it does not monitor devices' locations, it does so in relation to nearby Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers “which may be located more than 100 miles away from your iPhone.” The company said the monitoring is “anonymous and encrypted” and used to calculate a device's location through GPS systems.

Apple did not immediately reply to requests seeking comment and clarification of details. Recent media attention to the reported location tracking of devices by Apple and Google has led Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to summon the two companies to a mobile privacy hearing on Capitol Hill next month. 

Addressing reports that the company is storing up to a year's worth of location data on its devices, Apple said the stored data is a “subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database that is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location.”

The company said it plans to release a software update “in the next few weeks” that will reduce the amount of location data stored on a device and delete the stored data “entirely” when location services are turned off.

“We don't think the iPhone needs to store more than seven days of this data,” Apple said in a statement.

Apple also said it is tracking “anonymous traffic data” for “an improved traffic service” the company plans to provide consumers “in the next couple of years.” Google, meanwhile, provides Android users information about traffic conditions through its Google Maps mobile application.

On April 26, The Nielsen Co. reported that Google led Apple in US smartphone share as of March, with 37% of smartphones running Google's Android operating system and 27% running Apple's iOS.

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